State Budget News: Vote on whole budget to take place in State Assembly later todayWisconsin News
-- After 42 straight hours of haggling, Wisconsin Assembly Democrats have agreed to allow a final vote later today on the governor’s budget repair bill. It was announced just after six o’clock this morning that Democrats would only bring up 38 more amendments to the package, with just 10 minutes of debate for each measure.
MADISON - After 42 straight hours of haggling, Wisconsin Assembly Democrats have agreed to allow a final vote later today on the governor’s budget repair bill. It was announced just after six o’clock this morning that Democrats would only bring up 38 more amendments to the package, with just 10 minutes of debate for each measure.
Once the Assembly vote is taken, an even bigger spotlight will shine on the Senate – which is currently one member short of what’s needed to act on a fiscal bill, since all 14 Democrats fled to Illinois to block the action. The ending of the Assembly filibuster didn’t sit well with Madison Democrat Mark Pocan. He said his party planned to bring up 225 amendments to stall a final vote on the budget package – which has attracted thousands of protestors because of its tight restrictions on public union bargaining privileges. Democrats brought up well over 100 amendments the past two days, and majority Republicans tossed aside every one of them. One was a request to check the constitutionality of Walker’s plan to let health officials reduce Medicaid benefits, with approval only from the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee. Republicans also said no to make transit employees exempt from the union restrictions. That was after the U.S. Labor Department said it might cut off $47-million-dollars in federal funds to Wisconsin bus systems because the grants do not allow bargaining rules to be changed.
Governor Scott Walker is brushing aside the fallout from the prank call he took on Tuesday from a blogger who pretended to be conservative billionaire David Koch. The Republican governor insisted that what he told blogger Ian Murphy was similar to what he’s said publicly. And Walker said he would not let one crank call become a distraction. The “Buffalo Beast” blog publicized the 20-minute call yesterday. In it, Walker compared his battle with the state’s public employee unions to Ronald Reagan’s firing of the striking air traffic controllers in the 1980’s. And when prompted by the imposter, Walker said he considered planting trouble-makers among the Capitol protestors. But he said it would create a ruckus, and it would scare people into thinking he might have to reach a settlement on the budget bill. Walker is still holding firm on his plan to end virtually all collective bargaining rights for most state-and-local public unions. He says the goal is still to solve the budget crisis. But Democrats said the call revealed that Walker’s true goal is to kill the unions. And they accused him of being insensitive, out of touch, and hungry for fame. The man Murphy claimed to be, David Koch, is a co-owner of energy giant Koch Industries. The company said Koch didn’t make the call, but would say nothing else. He gave $43,000 to Walker’s campaign. And there’s been talk that the governor wanted to pay him back by including a budget measure to sell state-owned power plants. But the firm says it has no interest in buying them, and Walker denies granting a favor.
State troopers were dispatched this morning to the homes of Wisconsin Senate Democrats, to try-and-get at least one to return to the State Capitol. The Senate issued a “call of the house” at seven o’clock a.m. It allows law enforcement to look for missing legislators. All 14 Senate Democrats walked out a week ago – and it left Republicans one person short of the 20 they need to act on the governor’s budget repair bill and its limits on public union bargaining. Democrats keep saying they’re all across the border in unified opposition to the bill. But GOP Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) assumes at least one senator is back home by now – and he hopes one-or-more will be compelled to come back with police officers at their doors.
The nation’s longest-serving legislator says Scott Walker has “diminished the image” of the Wisconsin governor’s office. State Senate Democrat Fred Risser of Madison has served under 12 governors since he was first elected in 1956. And he says he’s never seen a governor of either party so unwilling to compromise. Risser says the Republican Walker is not the type of governor Wisconsin is used to having, based on his failure to sit down with public union leaders and quote, “represent all the people of the state.” But Walker says the state doesn’t have any money for a compromise – we’ve known that for a long time – and he’s the first governor to try and do something about it. Walker and most of his fellow Republicans in the state Legislature say they’re standing firm on the governor’s budget repair bill. It eliminates the bargaining power of most public unions except for wages at-or-below inflation. Risser and the other 13 Democratic senators are starting their second week away from the Capitol, as they hold up a vote in the Senate on the budget package. They’re in Illinois, where police cannot summon them back to Madison. Risser said the walkout started on the quote, “spur of the moment.” He said they meet each night, and they’re more united now than when they left the capital. Risser hints that the Democrats would return before any state employees lose their jobs. Walker says layoff notices will start going out next week to 1,500 workers if the budget bill – which includes a refinancing package to pay those employees – is not approved by Saturday.